File this post under: Man Tracht un Got Lacht… Man plans and God laughs.
Not long ago, Pearl discovered a smooth, bright purple rock in the wilds of Aviva’s room. She carried it around with her all morning. Then she told me she wanted to bring it with us to the beach in March. Here’s how our conversation went:
Pearl: My throw this purple rock in the beach in the ocean?
Me: But then you would lose it forever!
Pearl: But Mama: it’s a rock.
I should have seen it as a sign. I should have seen it as a reminder to turn in the direction of letting go, loosening my grip, releasing attachment. Here was my 33-month-old child, holding up the starkest of mirrors, relaying the simplest of teachings. There was no pretense, no fanfare, no beating of chests or placing of blame or rending of shirts. There was only her clarity, unfettered and straight-up, like a shot.
It’s a rock.
And then there was me. Me and my attachment, my default, auto-pilot, holding-on-ness to this object, which, like any object, was nothing short of a sacred repository for meaning and memory. There was me, barely comprehending that taking the purple rock and hucking it into the vast mouth of the ocean was a perfectly good option. Why not?
Lately, life has been pummeling me with chances to practice throwing my pretty, shiny, precious rocks into open waters, well beyond the safe swimming zones, well beyond the line of sight of any lifeguard or source of rescue.
About ten years ago, Greg and I were living in a dumbbell-shaped apartment on South Fourth Ave. in Tucson. We paid something like $400/month in rent and shared the second-floor porch with a large extended family of pigeons, who woke us up at dawn and shit all over the ashtrays I was always trying to hide.
One weekend, Greg’s sister came to visit from California. She spent a night on our futon – the very same one clients now enjoy in my home office – and silently surveyed our grad-student existence. I woke the next morning looking forward to baking a lemon-blueberry cake for breakfast, but when I walked out of our bedroom into the living room, I saw that she was gone. Just gone. Then I noticed a note on the table. It read: “Guys, I’m outta here. Don’t worry – someday it will all come together.”
Since that day in 1998, we’ve gotten married, moved three times, had two kids, and cycled through at least a dozen livelihoods. We’ve revised and refinanced, we’ve made and lost friends, we’ve gained and lost weight, we’ve sought out and rejected opportunities, we’ve collected rocks and we’ve thrown rocks into the ocean.
It has come together and fallen apart more times that I can count. In short, we’ve been having a life. A life has been having us. What a freakin’ ride.
And every now and then, one of us will look up at the other with a raised eyebrow: “Has it all come together?” Or, “Oh! I think it all just came together.”
I need reminding of this these days.
But Mama: it’s a rock.
It does all come together. There are those moments when I think, “Wow.” I look around, and instead of judgment I feel a sense of wonder, amazement, presence. This, our life.
And it all comes apart at the seams, all of these carefully-laid plans, my expectations blown to smithereens, and the current of blame and resentment for things not being what I expected, what I thought I needed, what I was counting on, what was going to make it all better, what was going to finally allow me to exhale, to rest, to let go, this raging current threatens to pull me under, take me down.
No. The letting go and the coming together – neither is a one-shot deal, requiring perfect conditions. If they were, what would we do the rest of the time?
Three months ago, I kept saying something was imminent, a work-related development that I thought would change everything. Well, that thing is still unfolding, unresolved, in process.
Three days ago, I thought I had it all figured out. Long-story short: I would take the train alone to Amherst, a clean break, 36 hours away from home, birthday bliss. As it happened, I drove down here with the whole family, throwing goldfish into the backseat for three hours while Greg and I managed to catch up with each other about Item #1. And instead of a sleepover with my sisters and girlfriend, husband and kids at a safe distance on the other side of town, it was me and Greg sharing a bed after he got hit with that throwing-up thing that’s going around.
Mama, it’s a rock.
Almost every day, Pearl wants to confirm the plan: Mama, goin’ beach in March? Maybe instead of “yes,” I should start saying, “That’s the plan.”
God might be laughing.
But if we do get there, we will get there with shiny purple rock in hand. And together, my little teacher and I will throw that rock into the ocean, right where it belongs.